Inventory Site Record

Normansfield Hospital Grounds

Normansfield Hospital Grounds (Richmond)

Brief Description

Normansfield Hospital was founded in 1868 by Dr John Haydon Langdon-Down who converted a private house as a private hospital for subnormal patients. He identified and pioneered treatment for the condition later named Down's Syndrome after him. Believing in the educational value of music and drama as part of their care, an amusement hall was built in 1877. Other therapeutic activities included art and craft workshops and farming, and amenities in the grounds included an orchard and gardens. The hospital transferred to the NHS in the 1950s, later became a day centre for the mentally handicapped, but closed in 2000. The remains of the landscaped grounds contained many fine trees although much of the land had been built over and after closure the site became neglected. In 2008 planning permission was given for its redevelopment as Gabriella Park Gardens, a private housing scheme of 89 dwellings. The Normansfield Theatre, refurbished through a Section 106 agreement, has been opened as part of the Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability.

Practical Information
Site location:
Normansfield Avenue
TW11 9PS
Type of site:
Housing/Estate Landscaping
Open to public?
Opening times:
site under development. Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability (2a Langdon Park): open 9.30am-1.30pm Saturdays, 2-5pm Mondays
Special conditions:
Archives/events at Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability
Public transport:
Rail: Hampton Wick. Bus: 281, 285

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2012
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

Normansfield Hospital was founded in 1868 by pioneering physician Dr John Haydon Langdon-Down (1828-1896) who had been Physician Superintendent at the Royal Earlswood Hospital from 1858-68, and undertook research into the condition that he called Mongolism, which later became known as Down's Syndrome in his name. He converted the White House, also purchasing 2 adjoining properties, Trematon and Conifers, as a private hospital for subnormal patients with the condition. Normansfield initially accommodated around 20 patients; between 1868 and 1891 it was gradually expanded as new wings and amenities were added, so that it became largely self-sufficient. Facilities such as artisans' workshops, a men's club and laundry were provided. What is now known as the Normansfield Theatre was built as an entertainment hall in 1877 to designs by Rowland Plumbe and completed in 1879, a rare example of a private Victorian theatre.

After the death of Dr Langdon-Down in 1896, and his wife Mary in 1901, the hospital continued to be managed by their sons Reginald and Percival, both medically trained. By 1914 the hospital had 4 wings, one for women and children, another for men and boys, and one each for higher-grade women and men, each having its own part of the gardens and park. The c.15 hectares of grounds had gardens, walks and woodland areas, and games played included croquet, tennis and cricket, and there was a boathouse on the river. There was a farm with cows, chickens and prize-winning pigs, and a productive garden providing not only food for their kitchen but also occupation for the patients. Theatrical activities continued to be part of the life of the hospital.

Normansfield continued as a private establishment after WWII but it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage and with the foundation of the new NHS, it was eventually transferred to the government in 1951. However, its Physician Superintendent was Dr Norman Langdon-Down, a descendent of the founder. It became a day centre for the mentally handicapped and in the 1990s came under Richmond, Twickenham and Roehampton NHS Trust. Normansfield closed in 2000 and was sold to developers, but no development took place and the buildings and grounds subsequently became neglected. The remains of the landscaped grounds contained fine trees including horse chestnuts, false acacia and conifers such as Scots pine, yew, Bhutan pine and giant redwood, although much of the land had been built over.

In 2008 planning permission was given for the site to be redeveloped by Laing Homes as Gabriella Park Gardens, a private housing development of 89 dwellings that will include restoration of the White House. The 2-phase development commenced in 2010, with phase 1 due to be completed in late 2012. The main contractor for the project is Eramo Developments Limited and the architect is Haines Phillips Architects. Care is being taken to preserve the fauna and wildlife on the site, in consultation with Natural England, and a large number of trees have been preserved.

The section of the hospital that included the Normansfield Theatre was refurbished and handed over to the Langdon Down Centre Trust as part of a Section 106 planning agreement by Laing Homes in October 2003. The remit of the Trust was to promote, preserve and manage the building, and the historical archive material of Dr Langdon-Down. In April 2010 the Trust merged with the Down's Syndrome Association, which now manages the building. In 2011 the Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability was established here to contribute to the public understanding of Dr Langdon Down's work at both Normansfield and Earlswood. Normansfield Theatre opened to the public as part of the museum opening in early 2012. Part of the Normansfield Hospital Archive 1853-1983 is housed at the London Metropolitan Archives.

Sources consulted:

John Archer, David Curson, 'Nature Conservation in Richmond upon Thames, Ecology Handbook 21', (London Ecology Unit) 1993; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England: London 2: South' (Penguin) 1999. See history on Stella Brain nee Langdon Down 'Dr John Langdon-Down and Normansfield'

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Laing Homes (developers)
Site management:
Listed structures:
LBII*: White House; Normansfield Theatre
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order:
To be checked
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

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